Reviewed by Gavin Patchett
Solitary by Travis Thrasher
"Thrasher's prose is smooth as butter, and his words do the best thing: they fade and don't get in the way, because the story itself is just too strong."
In all honesty, I was worried about Solitary. I'd heard buzz around the 'Net casting it as a Christian Twilight, and that bothered me. Not out of undue allegiance to Twilight or objections to it, I just worried Solitary would focus too much on being a “Christian” counter to Twilight instead of focusing on characters and STORY.
And indeed, the initial set-up sounded familiar: a sixteen year old boy and his mom escape divorce to a small, isolated backwoods town where things feel “off”. Said boy immediately falls for an ethereal, mysterious girl who from the get-go insists she's trouble and that the boy should stay away.
The similarities end there, however, leaving readers with a dark, engaging story disturbing and moving on many levels. There are no vampires here either, which offered me no end of relief, believe me.
Chris Buckley and his mother, still reeling from divorce, arrive in Solitary, North Carolina looking for a new start. What they find is an abandoned cottage where Chris' Uncle Robert should be living, a close-knit community bordering on claustrophobic, and a high school governed by strange social rules that ostracize Chris from the very beginning.
And then there is Jocelyn. Mysterious, enthralling, beautiful Jocelyn. Equal parts frustrating and entrancing, there's something about Jocelyn that works underneath Chris' skin. From his first glance he's hooked. There's nothing he can do to forget her. Regardless of her inconsistent behavior and hot and cold nature, Chris finds himself entangled in her mystery, and her insistence that she's nothing but trouble only fuels his fire, because quite simply...
Chris Buckley doesn't like being told what to do. At all. However, there's more mystery to Solitary than just a girl, and soon Chris finds himself mired in a great darkness that threatens not only Jocelyn but also his mom and himself, too. Solitary teems with secrets and evil, and if Chris probes any deeper, he might not like what he discovers...or live long enough to tell anyone about it.
Anyone harboring Twilight-copycat worries can dispense with those now. Thrasher's foray into Young Adult fiction is a slam-dunk. The dialogue and narrative voice is perfect, and I love what Thrasher did with Chris' affinity for music and his Ipod playlists. Very current and relevant, which gave Chris depth and made him seem very believable. And... though this story's arc is resolved, we're left hanging as to Chris's future in Solitary. This IS the new Teen series to get into, now.
Also impressive was Thrasher's use of the first-person present tense. Usually I hate reading in that tense, mostly because the author's handling of it proves so clunky. In this case, however, Thrasher's prose is smooth as butter, and his words do the best thing: they fade and don't get in the way, because the story itself is just too strong.
in Adirondack Park, New York. He writes suspense/thrillers, weird fiction, science
fiction, and stuff that doesn't fit into nice little boxes. He's currently working
on his first novel. He's a new member of the Lost
Genre Guild, and a blogger
for The Midnight Diner and the Christian
Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Visit him online at his